Elsham Veterans’ time to remember

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More than 70 years ago, 1,300 men flew from Elsham Wolds on bombing raids over Germany and occupied Europe and never returned.

Despite dwindling numbers of surviving veterans, those remaining, now in their 90s, and the families of those who served at the base, returned to remember those who paid that ultimate sacrifice.

This year, three veterans returned to Elsham, including the President of the RAF Elsham Wolds Association, Gordon Mellor, now 96, who served as a navigator at the base.

In 1942, he was shot down over Holland.

However, he escaped capture and trekked back home via continental Europe.

He flew in Halifax and Wellington bombers from Elsham with 103 Squadron, the airfield’s largest unit. Later the Lancasters arrived.

Joining Mr Mellor were Margaret Bailey, a driver at the base, now 92, and Fred Spencer (91).

Mr Spencer said: “It is always wonderful to come back and join in the nostalgia.

“I was with ground crew, but night after night watched as the planes took off, knowing that many of those men would not return.

“Most were about 19 years old.

“I was glad, though, to be here and playing my part.”

The service, by the memorial stone at the former base, was led by Canon Peter Hall and the music by Market Rasen ResDev Band, conducted by David Denver.

In his address, Canon Hall told a large gathering: “Those who served here at Elsham Wolds required skill and bravery.

“It was dangerous work, but it also fostered dependence and comradeship.

“You come back to remember lost colleagues, and family members come to reflect on what they did all those years ago.

“Today, we still ask whether violence and war will ever stop.”

Wreaths were laid by veterans and representatives of other organisations.

Standard bearer for the Brigg-based National Service RAF Association, Lincolnshire branch, was Mike Galvin.

Speaking on behalf of the Market Rasen ResDev Band, David Denver said: It has been a privilege to be part of this occasion for the first time.

“We were very moved when we were asked to come.”